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      First, the ostensible reason for this incident is the Turkmen rebels in Syria. Erdogan summoned the Russian ambassador earlier this week to warn against strikes against the Turkmen in Syria. Second, it’s worth considering that much of this is about Turkish domestic politics. Erdogan is playing to the crowd, in the same way done by […]
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Proud Nations

rainbow-wallpaper-18Congratulations to everyone out there who can now share equally in the benefits of marriage that the state provides. That’s justice. No longer will same sex couples find themselves locked out of hospital rooms, denied tax breaks and excluded from other benefits that heterosexual couples have taken for granted for centuries.

Just out of curiosity, I girded my loins and went over to Fox News to check out the reaction from the hysterically nauseated homophobes who think that this ruling is going to precipitate the end of civilization as we know it. It’s always amusing to watch their reactions, especially since they seem to be in denial about what modern heterosexual married couples do to each other in bed. But, whatever. Not my problem.

But I did see this little bit of stupidity on their breathless “the-World-is-going-to-end-now-that-the-gays-can-marry” page. Take a look:

We don’t have to guess about the sociological implications of Friday’s decision. Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, contends that the legitimization of same-sex unions in Scandinavian countries has caused the heterosexual marriage rate to drop dramatically, while the number of children born out of wedlock has risen, resulting in numerous societal problems.

The reason for the drop in the heterosexual marriage rate is clear:  if marriage can be redefined to include any and every relationship, then why bother to marry at all? Anytime you counterfeit something, you cheapen the value of the real thing, and gay marriage is “counterfeit marriage” (In fairness, heterosexuals have also been cheapening the value of marriage for years through adultery and divorce.)

As a Christian, I am most concerned about the spiritual implications of Friday’s decision. During the oral arguments for this case on April 28, Justice Kennedy noted that the traditional definition of marriage “has been with us for millennia. It’s very difficult for the Court to say, ‘Oh, well, we know better.’”

Friday, the Supreme Court said in essence, “We know better than God how to define marriage.”  For thousands of years both Christians and Jews have believed in both the Old and New Testament definition of marriage that was  written by Moses and affirmed by Jesus Himself when He said that God “made them male and female … For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-5).

Jesus taught that sex was a gift from God between one man and one woman in a marriage relationship. Any variation from that—premarital sex, adultery, polygamy, unbiblical divorce, or homosexuality—is a deviation from God’s original plan for sex.  Friday’s Supreme Court decision represents a collective shaking of our fists in God’s face saying , “We don’t care what You say about life’s most important relationship. We know best.”

The guy who wrote this about the effects of marriage in Scandinavia clearly doesn’t understand the research but this is really how these people think.

They don’t get it that the reason why marriage rates are down in Scandinavia is because the social safety net there is so strong, and, I’ve heard from people who have actually lived in Sweden that the culture worships children, that there is no need to get married if you become pregnant. The parent-child relationship is considered so important that the state makes sure that it’s strong with economic assistance and job security. In Finland, for example, each new baby gets a gift box of clothes, diapers, blankets and other goodies (including condoms for the parents). The maternity box even serves as a first bed complete with a mattress. How cool is that? I’ll tell you, it’s very cool. And it doesn’t matter how much money you have. Every child is entitled to the same start in life in Finland. That’s so, so, what’s the word? Enlightened, or kind, or fair-minded or something.

Commie slacker parasite newborns in Finland get these things in a maternity box without putting any of their delicate scrumptious skin in the game

Even if Scandinavian countries didn’t force their citizens to get gay married, they would still have this incredible safety net for children and their parents regardless of marital status. There is no shame or economic pain attached to having children out of wedlock in Scandinavia so there’s no need to get married. Imagine that! Having children because you want them regardless of whether you are married. Why, that would almost make abortion unnecessary.

As for cheapening marriage, the exact opposite is true with this supreme court ruling. In fact, it shows just how valuable marriage is to all people who can derive real tax benefits and other privileges from the state sanctioned married state. It kind of reinforces how important that license is. If you’ve got it, your retirement bennies are transferable, your property is covered, you can give your trusted partner the authority to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated. You know, important stuff. Now, gay and lesbian couples can have those very valuable benefits. That’s all this ruling means.

Of course there’s more to it than that from a societal point of view. It does give married same-sex couples the dignity they’ve been forced to carry all by themselves. By the way, is there something seriously wrong with Clarence Thomas or what? I’m beginning to think he has some kind of personality disorder. But if what Atrios calls “the Olds” don’t want to join the party and celebrate, fine, let them go sulk in a corner. Their opinions are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

It’s really too bad that so many people felt coerced into marriage back before the Pill and are projecting their envy and bitterness on the rest of society. They do have a choice. They can be Calvinistic crepe hangers or they can let their Grinchy little hearts grow 5 sizes by enjoying other people’s happiness. But they seem determined to not only refuse to evolve but also to prevent other people from evolving too. And their chosen media seems willing to support their stubborness. I ask myself, what’s in it for Fox News and the wealthy people it represents? Because when they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. Well, Fox News is catering to the olds now but that’s not going to last forever.

Anyway, that brings us to the whole silly so-called “Christian” thing.

I don’t care.

No, seriously.

I don’t care what you believe. It’s none of my business. In any case, if the bible is nothing more to me than bronze age and iron age writings and not some divinely inspired rule book, then it’s useless to keep bringing it up as something I need to pay attention to. There are better sources of morality than that book.

Just like it’s none of your business to decide what people do in the privacy of their own homes between two consenting adults. There’s absolutely no reason for you to get involved in that. I’m not interested in your reasons for why you think this is your business or why it makes you feel superior to judge and criticize people so wholly unconnected with you in an attempt to shame them and deprive them of their happiness.

If that’s what it means to be Christian these days, it’s not a very good recruiting tool. That’s what the current research is showing as well. It’s anti-evangelical. Not only is it not working, it’s turning people off from the Republican party. That’s got to be of some concern to the small evil group who runs Fox News and the world to whom no one we know belongs.

Republican cruel, harshly punitive “you’re on your own” brand conservatism and fundamentalist evangelical so-called “Christians” are inextricably tied to one another in the minds of voters now. You just wait and see, somehow, the party has to ditch you people to make itself look cool and attractive again. It’s coming. And if it’s as cruel to you as you have been to the LGBT community, African Americans, poor hungry children and the unemployed, well, you have it coming. It will probably look something like the Republican party aggressively courting libertarians and younger people who have been forced to pay the freight on every little thing your generation took for granted. They’ll start looking at your Social Security benefits as something they shouldn’t have to pay for. Generational warfare.

But for you diehard “Christian” homophobes, I just think that’s a waste of time to be grumpy, unattractive, religious bigots, After all, it’s not gay people who are making working peoples’ lives miserable and eroding our quality of life. Where people, gay or straight. put their naughty bits, has nothing to do with the erosion of the middle class or income instability or exploitative profit mining of American working people by the wealthy and well-connected or whether the conservatives that frequent Fox News really, really hate Social Security with a white hot passion (because they do).

Funny that Fox News would spend its fury on same sex marriage and abortion when the plight of the long term unemployed gets completely ignored.

I don’t think that Jesus would approve.

Fox News viewers are perfectly OK with being lied to; they really just hate non-conservatives

In the morning, he’ll be talking in word salads and punching the unemployed.

That’s really what this comes down to.

According to Gawker, Fox News doesn’t feel it needs to defend Bill O’Reilly anymore:

Update, 5:40 p.m.: Two hours after this post was published, Fox provided the following statement to Mediaite (without addressing the substance of the Media Matters report):

Bill O’Reilly has already addressed several claims leveled against him. This is nothing more than an orchestrated campaign by far left advocates Mother Jones and Media Matters. Responding to the unproven accusation du jour has become an exercise in futility. FOX News maintains its staunch support of O’Reilly, who is no stranger to calculated onslaughts.

Bill has addressed the lies about the Falklands, although there are new lies now about his involvement in the JFK assassination conspiracy. Plus, he claims he witnessed nuns being executed in El Salvador when records show he wasn’t even in the country at the time the events happened.

It’s more important to fling poo at those institutions that are trying to keep Bill O’Reilly honest than to force Bill O’Reilly to actually be honest.

But no matter. I never expected Fox would censure O’Reilly in the same way that NBC disciplined Brian Williams. Part of this is because NBC still clings tenaciously to the concept of being a news organization while Fox News does not.

Come to think of it, wasn’t it Fox News that won a Supreme Court victory several years back that made it Ok for it to lie? Yeah, it was something like, it doesn’t have to tell the truth. There’s nothing in the constitution that says that a media outlet that purports to report the news has to do so honestly or something to that effect. They all might lie but Fox News takes pride in being audaciously dishonest and getting away with it. It’s that audacity to flout the rules, while demanding everyone else adhere to some purity test, that I suspect is the real attraction for the Fox News viewer. It’s the thrill of making everyone else march to Fox’s drummer.

So, it doesn’t really matter what you throw at Bill O’Reilly, Fox is going to stand by him and they’ll pretend that they have addressed all of the accusations adequately and it’s only the left wing media and enemies that are going for Bill.

But it would be wrong to assume that it’s only MMFA or some radical Decembrist faction of a commie left that wants to bring down Bill O’Reilly and Fox News. Hey, I didn’t vote for Obama-twice! I have been called a racist for not sticking with my tribe when what *I* saw in 2008 was an inexperienced but ruthlessly ambitious opportunist hired to carry out the wishes of the financial services industry that was about to lose its shirt in the worst financial crisis since the 1930’s. My objection to Obama is he is really a country club moderately conservative Republican and he’s governed like one. So, how does the Fox News conditioned viewer handle people like me? I’ve seen the confusion in their eyes when they try to reconcile what they’ve been told with the fact that I am standing there saying I am a liberal who loathes Obama for purely non-racial reasons. It’s like watching Fembots about to explode. They can’t quite grasp it.

(Now that I think of it, I’ve seen some lefties have the same reaction. There’s a nugget of a problem there that the left has not accepted about its own side.)

No, the fighters against Fox extend beyond the usual suspects. It includes anyone who has to sit with brain dead relatives at dinner who have become mean spirited, crotchety, vile, bigots robotically spitting ultra-conservative nonsense in a garbled illogical word salad. Those people go out and vote, because they’re angry, and they don’t sound like they know what they’re supposed to be angry about. Nothing they say makes any damn sense. And it’s very difficult to want to be around them because they behave as if they’ve had a lobotomy. You can’t construct a logical argument with people who have had conditioned responses and thought-stopping reactions to anything you say. Seriously, they can contradict themselves several times in the same sentence and never even realize it. They are operating in pure fearful, emotional, enraged mode, thinking there is a child molester behind the potted plants and that the Muslims are going to kill them in their beds while they unknowingly support the most regressive economic theories the conservative right has to offer because God, or something.

The John Birch Society ain’t got nothing on Bill O’Reilly and Fox News. John Birch was fringe until Fox came along. And Bill has a single talent. He is extremely effective at turning perfectly ordinary people into obnoxious right wing Archie Bunker types who actively celebrate their willful ignorance and call themselves holy. That is a gift to the ultra wealthy. The rich and powerful will fight tooth and nail to protect Bill O’Reilly. He is their golden goose. His distortions and ability to provoke irrational anger keeps his audience in a state of poised suspension, ready to hurl themselves like zombies at the first fresh brains O’Reilly shakes in front of them. As informed citizens, they’re useless to the rest of us and, in most cases, actively harm their families and friends by their inability to see when they’ve been flimflammed. It’s pure gold to the small evil group that runs the world and to whom no one we know belongs.

The true Fox News watcher will joyfully accept their role as a minion to the corrupt. They will tell you that there is nothing you can do to change a corrupt system except pray for the second coming. How this justifies joining the army of corruption, I’ll never understand, unless it is to bask in the glory of being on the side of the powerful, especially those corrupt powerful who masquerade as godly. It sort of reminds me of the people who are flocking to the middle east to join ISIS. We all know ISIS is brutal, totalitarian and mindless but some people are attracted to that. Fox News only beheads people metaphorically. Its enemies still suffer the same fate, and the meanness, misogyny and cruelty is still there, but there’s less blood.

Oh sure, things were different when the typical Fox News view was younger. People were more helpful, there was a real sense of community, labor was stronger and public education was better and well funded. But they seem incapable of figuring out how we got to this place where we have gone back to the economic conditions that lead to the Great Depression. They do not see the role of Fox News in the process.

And that’s just the way Fox likes it. So, no need to draw further attention to itself. Defending Bill is just going to make it look like it needs to defend Bill and that’s not the kind of face Fox wants to present to the world. That shows a sense of vulnerability. The Fox News viewer doesn’t want to feel vulnerable. Fox wants to look impregnable, a mighty fortress against the commie left even if it’s more like a prison for the gullible.

Ok, we all know it. There are things we can not change in this world. So we must continually chant the serenity prayer as we watch Fox, and media like it, tear the fabric of our country apart. There’s nothing we can do about Fox News and it’s ability to lie, distort, mislead and destroy. We can only wait until the vulnerable reduce in numbers and the younger, less religiously motivated internet era demographic matures. Fox News will just become another niche channel for the unhinged. Then we will start the long, hard slog to recovery, reversing all the crap it has flung at us.

Thursday: Assholes R Us

Did you see this list of the top majors for the 1%?

We got an interesting question from an academic adviser at a Texas university: could we tell what the top 1 percent of earners majored in?

The writer, sly dog, was probably trying to make a point, because he wrote from a biology department, and it turns out that biology majors make up nearly 7 percent of college graduates who live in households in the top 1 percent.

According to the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, the majors that give you the best chance of reaching the 1 percent are pre-med, economics, biochemistry, zoology and, yes, biology, in that order.

Undergraduate Degree Total % Who Are 1 Percenters Share of All 1 Percenters
Health and Medical Preparatory Programs 142,345 11.8% 0.9%
Economics 1,237,863 8.2% 5.4%
Biochemical Sciences 193,769 7.2% 0.7%
Zoology 159,935 6.9% 0.6%
Biology 1,864,666 6.7% 6.6%
International Relations 146,781 6.7% 0.5%
Political Science and Government 1,427,224 6.2% 4.7%
Physiology 98,181 6.0% 0.3%
Art History and Criticism 137,357 5.9% 0.4%
Chemistry 780,783 5.7% 2.4%
Molecular Biology 64,951 5.6% 0.2%
Area, Ethnic and Civilization Studies 184,906 5.2% 0.5%
Finance 1,071,812 4.8% 2.7%
History 1,351,368 4.7% 3.3%
Business Economics 108,146 4.6% 0.3%
Miscellaneous Psychology 61,257 4.3% 0.1%
Philosophy and Religious Studies 448,095 4.3% 1.0%
Microbiology 147,954 4.2% 0.3%
Chemical Engineering 347,959 4.1% 0.8%
Physics 346,455 4.1% 0.7%
Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration 334,016 3.9% 0.7%
Accounting 2,296,601 3.9% 4.7%
Mathematics 840,137 3.9% 1.7%
English Language and Literature 1,938,988 3.8% 3.8%
Miscellaneous Biology 52,895 3.7% 0.1%
Source: 2010 American Communty Survey, via ipums.org
{{hangs head in shame}}

See??  This is yet another reason to invest in research.  If you don’t keep us in the lab and pay us well, we’ll go to work on Wall Street.  Nice economy you’ve got there.  Be a shame if something *happened* to it.

I suspect that the large number of geeks on Wall Street represents the number of quants hired to construct and run the dynamic models.  Take D. E. Shaw, billionaire biologist, for example. While he’s running a hedge fund, he’s got a sideline creating molecular dynamics simulations programs on proteins.  I can definitely see the crossover but what the top dogs probably fail to realize is that to the geeks, the programs are just research, as in “what would happen if we tweaked this parameter?” and there goes the Euro. God, help us.

Ironically, major pharmaceutical companies are run by former ketchup company executives and salesmen.  Go figure.  What we really need is for everyone to stick to their own kind.  No more of this mixing of the majors.  It’s unnatural.

However, this study just confirms my suspicions that it is much easier for a hard sciences major to learn business and finance than a business major to learn the hard sciences. And we in the research industries are going to pay for that lack of intellectual reciprocity.


Did you catch the article in Vanity Fair titled National Public Rodeo about the Juan Williams at NPR fiasco?  There’s a sad little tale of karmic justice in it, considering the way the candidates and Fox treated him in South Carolina.  His story sounds vaguely familiar.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Flashy African-American dude with gigs at prestigious institutions gets hired by a bunch of solidly middle class, no-nonsense, Minnesota-type liberals.  They’re thrilled to be adding to the diversity of their lineup; he thinks he’s doing them a favor.  Turns out he’s an “idea rat”, not a workhorse, he’s considerably more conservative than they realize, and he has a history of lack of respectful treatment of women.  They would have known this if they had bothered to check out his background a bit more thoroughly but they’re blinded by their instinct to do good or fear of looking unfairly and tastelessly bigoted.  The staff and management try to accommodate his quirks and his moonlighting for their arch enemy.  But after half a decade, it’s just not working out.  They try talking to him but whenever they try to rein him back in, he starts accusing them of racism.  Everything is racism to him.  Racism, racism, racism.  So, they sit and wait until he royally fucks up in some spectacular way and then they fire him.  And the ones who fire him who end up losing their jobs in a firestorm of conservative vs liberal rhetoric- and accusations of racism.

It’s either a misunderstanding of worldviews or it’s a clever, common strategy to accuse your detractors of the most vile, prejudicial instincts in order to get what you want.  Too bad it bit him in the ass in South Carolina.  I almost feel sorry for the guy.  But he took the bait from Fox News and they own him now.


I’ve been following Jeff Jarvis’s Tweets from Davos, Switzerland.  He snarked this tweet late yesterday:

jeffjarvis Jeff Jarvis

Now in the more fun part of #WEF: brainstorming sessions. Surprising that execs will play.

Jeff seems astonished that there is still no sense of responsibility among the uber rich.  They either don’t realize or callously don’t care about all of the misery they’re causing.  Or, maybe it’s all part of the plan.  What strikes me as odd about the very rich is that it seems like they live in a California-esque paradise of self-esteem programs.  No one has ever told them what stupid, selfish excuses for human beings they are.  They’ve never had any “character building” experiences.  You know the kind?  Whenever you needed something really badly, like a college education, and your parents didn’t have the cash to at least keep you from starving, they always said it would build your character?  I should have a rock solid foundation of character by now.  Not so the uber rich.  Their voices are “full of money” and they have no sense of guilt for running over people who get in their way.

jeffjarvis Jeff Jarvis

BofA’s Moynihan responds that bankers will bear their scars for many years to come. So will we all. #wef

Somewhere, I hear the world’s tiniest violin…

The right’s boogieman, George Soros, says that if Mitt Romney is the nominee, there won’t be much of a difference between a Obama administration and a Romney administration.  The best shot Democrats have to retain the White House is for Santorum or Gingrich to get the nomination.  I happen to disagree with this.  Republicans, well, movement conservatives, will pull out all of the stops if Gingrich gets the nomination.  They want to win and all of the misery of the past three years will be dumped on Obama, some of it for good reason.  He squandered his opportunity to drag the country leftwards to the middle when he first took office and had a filibuster proof majority.

And why did he fail to do that?  It’s because he doesn’t believe in it.  He told you on Tuesday night that he was a moderate Republican.  He’s been saying that for four years now.  His heros are Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.  Doesn’t anyone ever notice that he doesn’t cite any Democrats as his role models?  Well, for one thing, no one believed that crap about him being the second coming of FDR so he had to drop it.  I think that forcing him to actually say he is a Democrat supporting strong Democratic values is physically and psychologically painful for him but I encourage the doubters to try.  Try to make him say something nice about LBJ or Bill Clinton.  Watch him flinch.

Anyway, Soros says he’s worried about the Supreme Court.  I’m not too worried.  I suspect that Ruth Bader-Ginsburg will announce her retirement before the election and will be replaced.  That leaves the composition of the court stable.  It would be different if Alito or Thomas or Kennedy stepped down but for some reason the Supremes have a history of living to a ripe old age whether we like it or not.

Here’s the rest of Soros’ interview from Davos, who, by the way, is also suffering from the failure to imaginate any other contest than the one between the Republicans and the Republican disguised as a Democrat. There are simply no other alternatives, like, replacing the Republican running as a Democrat with a real Democrat. I’m beginning to think that Soros is the one playing 11 dimensional chess here.:

Tuesday: Convergence, Ladies?

Is there a war on women?  Kalli Joy Gray asked that question of White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer at this year’s Netroots Nation.  Melissa McEwan at Shakesville documented the atrocity here.  Here’s the YouTube video.  You decide:

I like the part where she says something like, “PLEASE don’t bring up Lily Ledbetter. We’re tired of that.”  And then, almost the very next thing he talks about is- Lily Ledbetter.  BUT, Pfeiffer says, Obama is supportive of the Paycheck Fairness Act.  Yes, I can almost picture it now.  Obama, standing at the window at the White House, looking down the Mall towards the rotunda and whispering to Pfeiffer:

“Those poor little things.  That act is never going to be passed.  I wish I could do something for them.  Go, Dan, go  and be my man in Minneapolis, tell them how I, Feminist in my Heart, that I support them.  If only I knew how…  If only I were President and knew how to use the bully pulpit or had enough experience in congress to manipulate legislators like Clinton did or just knew how to exercise the levers of the executive branch with signing statements…or something.”

What I think we are witnessing in this exchange between Pfeiffer and Gray is contempt.  She’s justifiably angry but he is contemptuous.  Why else would he have offered such a lame defense of Obama’s policies for women?  He’s not even *trying*.  Maybe the White House figured that after 2008, Netroots Nation attendees were not too bright.  I don’t think that’s the case.  They just happen to have fault lines and weaknesses like every other bunch of humans on the planet.  They had just suffered through 8 years of Bush.  They wanted a hero.

Ok, nevermind.  That was stupid.

Nevertheless, they are pretty smart people in that room.  Minneapolis experienced a general increase in collective IQ when it hosted Netroots Nation and there tends to be more women at this event than the media lets on.  But Pfeiffer came to NN almost completely unprepared and fumbled when he brought out that tired old crap that the Obama administration feeds to what they think are the stupid masses.  “Lily Ledbetter.  They probably don’t even know what that is.  Whatever.  Why do *I* have to go to Minneapolis??  Everyone else is going to be drinking beer and playing pool this weekend.”

Like this:

The Politico post says criticism of the Obama staffers who showed up at a Georgetown bar to drink beer and relax was limited mostly to conservative blogs.  Well, I am not a conservative but this picture speaks volumes to me.  The shirts came off supposedly, because the staffers got caught in a rain storm and their clothes were wet.  But as you will note, there are a couple women in this pic and their tops are on.  Women don’t take their wet sopping clothes off in public no matter how cold, clingy and uncomfortable they are.  The guys just whip them off.  Not a problem.

I suspect some readers are going to get distracted by the rules of propriety for women in a public place but they would be missing the point.  If you are a working woman, and the women in this pic are colleagues of the men, you know that there are certain symbols that separate the men from the “girls”. The power tie is one of them. This kind of crap is another.  How you are allowed to dress, are expected to dress, does make a difference.  I could care less if they all got a little toasted after a hard day at work.  But when you go out with your female colleagues, you should keep your shirt on.  We can tell from this picture who has the power on the Obama staff and their professional opinion of their female colleagues.  This is what leads to the tone deafness from Pfeiffer and the Lily Ledbetter crap.  Little things, like the ability to go shirtless at a bar, make a difference in your attitude towards the women you work with.  It’s like a bunch of naked guys having a meeting in a sauna.  You can’t invite the ladies.

By the way, when did Obama last go golfing with Jan Brewer or Debbie Wasserman- Shultz?  Last week, Obama, Biden, Ohio governor Kasich and John Boener (R-Ohio) Speaker of the House, did a round of golf, presumably to hammer out some kind of deal (that for some strange reason couldn’t get legislated in public…).  Obama doesn’t go golfing with many women, or at least, *I* never hear about it.

NPR’s All Things Considered read mail from listeners defending the president’s golf meetings that are looking increasingly out of touch in these days of high unemployment and falling wages:

Now on to some other mail. Yesterday, I talked with Peter Finch, an editor at Golf Digest. This, as President Obama, Vice President Biden, House Speaker Boehner and Ohio Governor Kasich prepared to tee-off tomorrow. So, Finch offered some tips for conducting business on the golf course.

Mr. PETER FINCH (Editor, Golf Digest): I think it makes it much easier to approach somebody and to talk to them about things that you want to accomplish together after you’ve played that around.

SIEGEL: Well, Al Arismandez(ph), of Redondo Beach, California, writes to say that he has completed deals on the golf course and he offers this advice: Once you’ve cheered or applauded a successful golf shot of a playing partner, or commiserated with them in a poorly executed one, there is a quick if not deep look into that golfer’s humanity. That’s the kind of insight and understanding that can go a long way, much longer than my tee shot on hole number one.

Hmmm, seems to me that Obama is missing out on a whole lot of female humanity in his golf-business-deal making meetings.  Maybe if he invited more women, they would tell him to STFU about Lily Ledbetter.

So, what does this have to do with the “war on women”?  In one of the biggest battles of the war, the neanderthals won yesterday when in a 5-4 decision in a gender discrimination suit, the conservative men of the Supreme Court told the women of the Supreme Court, and by extension, all the rest of the working women of this country, that the women plaintiffs didn’t have enough in common to bring a class action suit against Walmart.

What’s the big deal, Scalia seems to say.

It’s dumbfounding but I guess you just have to live through it to understand what is going on in the working world.  You have to be one of the women in the department who watches her male colleagues, but NEVER her female colleagues, eat lunch with the new male director every day in the cafeteria.  You have watch your female colleague work her ass off and deliver quality work, go out of her way to stay until 9:30pm at night to get it done, and still watch one of the precious and few promotions go to a guy who essentially has done nothing in nine years.  Hmmm, was he a lunch guy?  Why, yes, yes he was!  Presumably, the manager was able to get a quick look into the humanity of his male subordinate lunch partner as they commiserated over a poorly executed stir fry chicken and vegetables. You’d have to be a female member of a department where all the other females are much more junior than any male member of the department. You’d have to put up with, but never complain about, the sabotage of your agency and authority at work. You’d have to see your promotional opportunities continually lag behind your male colleagues year after year.  You’d have to endure more critical reviews of your work, less praise and still be expected to suck it up and find some kind of internal reward system to keep on going.  You’d have to get used to living in a smaller house, driving a cheaper car and watching your money more carefully.  Don’t even think about golf.  There will be informal meetings and strategizing and divvying up of the pie that go on you will never be a party to.  Get used to it or go home.

It’s not at all surprising to me that three of the four dissenters on the Supreme Court were the only women, Kagan, Sotomayor and Bader-Ginsburg.  What’s disturbing is that the five males on the other side had the nerve to tell someone with Bader-Ginsburg’s expertise that the women of the Walmart suit couldn’t link their cases together because they had nothing in common and the company as a whole was not responsible for the decisions of individual regional managers.  It doesn’t matter that women as a whole at Walmart can’t seem to break through that glass ceiling no matter what they do or how hard they try.

Right there on the Supreme Court we see a microcosm of what’s going on in the rest of the working world.  The three women are the most junior justices; Sotomayor and Kagan because of their tenure and Bader-Ginsburg due to the unfortunate failure of her party to take the White House for decades.  The people in charge on the Court are 5 men who have the nerve to tell the three women that there’s nothing going on at Walmart.  Jeez, why don’t they just shut up and get back to work?  We have to go duck hunting with our buddies.

Well, I have a confession to make.  I hate those 5 men.  No, really, I do.  I could never act as an agent of their deaths but I can’t wait until one of them pops off from some stroke or disease or accident or impeachment.  It can’t come too soon.

And I am swearing off Walmart until they lose a couple of billion.  When the shareholders are screaming for the male executives heads, maybe they’ll institute a company wide gender discrimination policy and rigorously hold managers accountable for violating it.  The male jerks of the Supreme Court won’t make them do it so the women shoppers of America will have to do it.  Even my 72 year old mom is livid.

Unemployment is high, the wars wage on, health care continues to be expensive, people are losing their houses and Obama is still trotting out Lily Ledbetter.  And more and more of us are asking ourselves, how come we can’t have Hillary in 2012?  What better way to guarantee that when one of those five assholes bites the dust that a woman who “gets it” is appointed?  With Hillary in the White House, there are potentially eight years to wait out Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Kennedy and Alito, the conservative Catholic lockdown on American women. The way the economy is going and in light of his subpar performance evaluation for the past four years, Obama might not make the cut next year.

Do women really want to take that chance?  What say you, male attendees of Netroots Nation?  Do you want to continue to condemn your sisters to a lifetime of second class status?  Or are you all talk and beer and no shirts?  Can you get over your love affair with Obama long enough to help us even the playing field or are you going to persist in your clueless hostility for “that woman”?

Thursday: Turning the Worm

Sorry I haven’t been around much these days.  Thank you, Katiebird for keeping the place up.  :-)

I haven’t got much news this morning but I did hear an interesting interview on The Naked Scientists podcast about the “worms” that television media outlets use during campaign season.  The worm is a graphical overlay on a broadcast debate or interview that records and displays the real time responses of a set of participants to what the politicians are saying.  It turns out that the worm may have a larger effect on the general audience than what the politicians are actually saying. It is also possible to “freep” the worm in order to deliberately introduce bias.  Here’s a snippet:

Chris –   So how did you actually do the study?

Colin –    Well, we ran what was conceptually a very simple experiment, although technically it was somewhat difficult.  We had two quite large groups of subjects come in on the evening of the final election debate last year (on April 29th), and they watched a version of the debate that includes the worm (the squiggly line going up and down).  But we played a little trick on our subjects because although they were watching the genuine live debate, which we were getting from the BBC stream, the “worm” that they were seeing wasn’t the real worm, it was controlled by us.  I was sitting in my office, watching the debate, and pressing some keys to move the worm about and hopefully making it look plausible.  The worm that our subjects saw was based on the one that I was moving about, but biased in a particular direction.  So for one group the worm was systematically biased in favour of Gordon Brown, and for the other group it was biased in favour of Nick Clegg.  Then we used some video mixers so that we could superimpose our worms over the live BBC broadcast.  Based on people’s responses afterwards via questionnaire, we can tell that our deception was successful, so the subjects on the whole believed that this was a real broadcast and the worm was genuine.

Chris –   But more critically, what was the outcome when you ask the students who won the debate?

Colin –   What our results suggest is that the worm is having a huge influence.  In fact, it’s much greater than we had anticipated.  Our two groups had completely different ideas about who had won the debate and their opinions were consistent with what the worm had been telling them.  So the group that saw a worm which favoured Gordon Brown thought that he had won the debate, whereas the group that saw the worm which favoured Nick Clegg overwhelmingly thought that he was the winner.  And more worryingly perhaps, we saw a similar, slightly smaller effect when we asked people about their choice of preferred Prime Minister.  So if people had been voting immediately after this debate, it seems like our manipulation could have had a significant effect on how they voted.

Give this one a listen or read the transcript.  The Confluence has always recommended caution when viewing broadcast and cable news.  Here’s one more reason to avoid it and stick to C-Span.  Pssst, pass it along.

For those of you who like to read studies of this kind, here’s the link to the PLOS paper, Social Influence in Televised Election Debates: A Potential Distortion of Democracy.   Here’s the money quote from the Discussions section:

In principle, televised election debates allow voters to form judgements about the leaders and their policies without the filter of (often unbalanced) media sources. Some writers have argued that this absence of “spin” is also a positive aspect of the worm:

I love the crawler and think that it really helps you understand what’s going on in the debates – in particular, it helps you take one step back from your own prejudices. It’s also just about the only input into debate commentary that comes more or less unmediated; the anonymous “undecided” focus group participants might be dumb or irrational, but they’re at least not pushing an agenda. Raw data is always good to have. [30]

According to this perspective, the worm is simply an additional source of “raw data”. Schill and Kirk [10]agree with this perspective, arguing that broadcasting the worm is “fundamentally empowering”, in that “it provides viewers more information to consider when watching the debates and forming their own opinions”. However, we dispute the claim that this is empowering to the viewer. Rather, our results indicate that the presence of the worm makes it more difficult for viewers to form opinions that are truly their own.

Caveat Emptor.  The rest of the podcast is pretty good too.  This week, the Naked Scientists features an extended section on cell phones.  Yep, all the information you can eat on how to fry your brain with radio waves.  Check it out.

Tomorrow is my last day of work.  I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a lot of time to dedicate to finding a new one.  That starts in earnest today.  I should have more time on my hands for blogging and I have a few topics I want to cover, like the Walmart class action gender discrimination lawsuit.  That could be a biggy.  There are a number of similar lawsuits pending, such as the one filed by women working at Lockheed-Martin.  Does this sound familiar, ladies?:

The lead plaintiff in the case, Carol Bell, a more than 20-year veteran of the company, asserts that she and other females employed by Lockheed Martin face a “glass ceiling” that prevents them from being considered for upper management level positions. Moreover, Plaintiffs allege that women who do hold these senior leadership positions are primarily relegated to “traditionally female” departments, such as Human Resources, Ethics, and Communications.

The suit also alleges that women in positions across various levels at Lockheed Martin are disproportionately paid less than men who perform substantially similar work, with similar or lesser skills and experience, and are disproportionately rated lower than men as a result of the company’s “bell curve” forced rating systems. Lower selection rates in “stretch” positions, leadership training, and other advancement track opportunities have resulted in lower compensation for female professionals; in contrast, male employees with lesser qualifications and experience find themselves on a fast track to promotion.

According to the complaint, it is Lockheed Martin’s practice to restrict posting of open positions Director-level and above (contrary to its policy for lower-level positions which are posted). The suit alleges that Lockheed Martin does not have an application or a formal interview process for these management positions, and instead makes promotion decisions in secretive meetings in which women often are not present.

The Walmart suit could have a domino effect on other similar suits, like Lockeheed Martin’s, and Bayer’s.  The Bayer one hits particularly close to home.  Go read the examples from the complaint on that one.  Amazing and very disturbing. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.  We finally have the magical 30% female composition on the court but will they be persuasive enough with old Catholic fogeys like  Scalia and particularly Kennedy?  Or will the six boys schedule their own meeting and come to a decision without Sotomayor, Kagan and Bader-Ginsburg?

Keep your eyes on this one.

In the meantime, it’s time to say goodbye to the best job I ever had.  Many thanks to all of my colleagues who have made my last seven years so rewarding:

Saturday News: Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagen?

Good Morning Conflucians!!

I’m even more spacey today than I was yesterday. Now that I finish turning my final grades, my body and mind want me to drop everything and state into space for a few hours, then go back to sleep. Of could I’m still going to have to deal with the barrage of e-mail complaints from students who think they should have gotten an A even though their semester average was in the B- range. And then there are the ones who want me to give them a C even though they failed all the exams. {{Heavy sigh….}}

So anyway….I did stare into space for a long time and listened to the thunder and lightning outside….finally decided to focus on Elena Kagan’s supposedly immanent nomination for SCOTUS. I don’t know if the WH just leaked her name to get a preview of the reactions or if Obama really plans to submit her name next week. We’ll see, I guess. In the meantime, everyone is talking about it and breaking down her record.

Here’s the latest reaction from Glenn Greenwald. He pulls together most of the criticism of Kagan. And here is his original Case Against Elena Kagan, which we have already discussed at TC.

Much of the criticism has been of Kagan’s hiring record at Harvard, where she mostly hired white men. Some of the most pithy articles I read:

The White House’s Kagan Talking Points are Wrong

The White House’s primary response — like the magician performing a trick–is to point our attention elsewhere. The White House says the hiring numbers are misleading because they do not reflect the number of offers that Dean Kagan made to women and scholars of color. But this seems a bit hard to believe. Do women and people of color find a tenured or tenure-track professorship at Harvard Law School less attractive than white men? Do they really prefer to teach at less prestigious schools? Or if they only prefer not to teach at Harvard because of perceived hostilities to women and people of color, why is it that Kagan could somehow overcome these perceptions when it came to conservatives, but not women and people of color? After all, part of the praise for Kagan is that she made Harvard Law School welcoming again for conservatives—in this case, conservative white men.

In order to assess whether Dean Kagan effectively reached out to women and scholars of color, we need the number of tenure and tenure-track offers she made to women and scholars of color. But the White House does not provide us the number of tenure and tenure-track offers that Dean Kagan made to women and scholars of color. In fact, they provide everything but those numbers. An honest defense would provide those numbers in the first instance. (The White House memo implicitly cites the privacy of the individuals who received offers as a basis for refusing to release names — but we wonder how many law professors would be embarrassed by the public revelation that they turned down a Harvard Law School offer.)

There is quite a bit of discussion of this article around the ‘net because it was written by three top law professors. Lots of other blogs have commented on this article. Here’s the response from Darren Hutchinson at Dissenting Justice.

From Chris Good at The Atlantic: Kagan Could Be Hard to Hit

I asked Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network (a conservative group focused on judicial nominees) what conservatives are going to say about Kagan, and what Kagan’s “wise Latina” moment, if there is one, will prove to be.

“She has been much more careful than Justice Sotomayor. She never would have said something like that even if she thinks it. She’s been so careful for so long that no one seems to know exactly what she does think,” Severino said.

Severino attended Harvard Law School, where Kagan served as dean. She asked fellow Harvard people about Kagan’s tenure as dean. “Everyone came back with the same perspective, which was she was careful to never say anything on the record, or off the record, to anyone about her own opinions, so I think she’s been carefully shepherding her image for a long time, possibly ever since her DC circuit nomination by President Clinton, so that’s a long time to effectively live on the short list.”

Another problem for Kagan is her ties to Goldman Sachs, according to Matt Kelley of USA Today:

Solicitor General Elena Kagan was a member of the Research Advisory Council of the Goldman Sachs Global Markets Institute, according to the financial disclosures she filed when President Obama appointed her last year to her current post. Kagan served on the Goldman panel from 2005 through 2008, when she was dean of Harvard Law School, and received a $10,000 stipend for her service in 2008, her disclosure forms show.

And from Sam Stein at Huffpo:

On Friday, a slew of inquiries was made to the White House and Justice Department about a minor post Solicitor General Elena Kagan once held at Goldman Sachs, the investment bank under fire over controversial mortgage securities transactions. Kagan served on a Goldman advisory council between 2005 and 2008, with the task of providing expert “analysis and advice to Goldman Sachs and its clients.” For her work she earned a $10,000 stipend.

This was actually old news. Kagan disclosed this information during her first confirmation hearings for the post of Solicitor General.

Unless you’re a committed (or commitable) Obot, I can’t see why the Goldman issue should be on the table. After all, there has been a lot of water under the bridge since Kagan’s previous confirmation hearings.

Charlie Savage discusses the issue of executive power and SCOTUS

As President Obama prepares to nominate somebody to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, his administration appears to be on a collision course with the Supreme Court in legal disputes that will test the limits of executive power.

Those disputes — involving issues like detainee rights and secrecy — throw into sharp relief the differences in the records of several leading contenders for the nomination, including Solicitor General Elena Kagan and two appeals court judges, Merrick B. Garland and Diane P. Wood.

And the there’s the “is she gay” issue. I don’t know if the Repubs will bring it up or not–maybe in sneaky ways.

There’s this from the Washington Post: Obama navigating high court nomination with more ease this time

After listing the ways the administration is handling things better, supposedly, there this:

….in other respects, the process is the same as a year ago, with senior administration officials hinting about who is on the shortlist — for the past couple of weeks, it has been Kagan, Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Judge Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit and Judge Sidney Thomas of the 9th Circuit — but remaining relatively opaque with outside interest groups. Activists with liberal interest groups said White House officials have kept open communication lines but have been circumspect about Obama’s thinking. “The contact has typically been one-way, which is, ‘We’ll hear what you want to tell us,’ ” said one activist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of offending the administration.

Another said that there have been several meetings but that the White House has not much shared its point of view. Still, one outside source said the president’s preference is less apparent than at the same point a year ago, just before he nominated Sotomayor. “Last time around, you knew Sotomayor was going to be the candidate,” the person said. “She was such a home run on so many different counts. . . . I would say this one is much, much, much more difficult for them.”

As the process draws to a close, officials in several groups handicapped the race as between Kagan and Garland, giving Kagan the edge. Kagan, they said, has weathered criticism from conservatives and liberals. The left has criticized her defense of some of the terrorism policies of the George W. Bush administration, although her defenders point out that she was only representing the policies of the Obama administration.

Via Greenwald, there’s also this horrifying headline: Supreme Court Watchers Wonder: How Conservative Is Kagan?

If Obama nominates her, I’d have to guess she is pretty conservative.

What do you think? And what are you reading today? Have a great Saturday, and I apologize for my lack of energy this morning.

Saturday Morning News and Views: May Day Edition

Beltane Fire Ritual, Edinburgh, Scotland

Happy May Day, Conflucians!! It’s the feast of Beltane. In Edinburgh, 12,000 people gathered for the Beltane Fire Festival spring rituals. Here is a little information on the pagan holiday:

By Celtic reckoning, the actual Beltane celebration begins on sundown of the preceding day, April 30, because the Celts always figured their days from sundown to sundown. And sundown was the proper time for Druids to kindle the great Bel-fires on the tops of the nearest beacon hill (such as Tara Hill, Co. Meath, in Ireland). These “need-fires” had healing properties, and skyclad Witches would jump through the flames to ensure protection.

Frequently, cattle would be driven between two such bonfires (oak wood was the favorite fuel for them) and, on the morrow, they would be taken to their summer pastures.

Other May Day customs include: processions of chimney-sweeps and milk maids, archery tournaments, morris dances, sword dances, feasting, music, drinking, and maidens bathing their faces in the dew of May morning to retain their youthful beauty.

In the words of Witchcraft writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, the Beltane celebration was principly a time of “…unashamed human sexuality and fertility.” Such associations include the obvious phallic symbolism of the Maypole and riding the hobby horse. Even a seemingly innocent children’s nursery rhyme, “Ride a cock horse to Banburry Cross…” retain such memories. And the next line “…to see a fine Lady on a white horse” is a reference to the annual ride of “Lady Godiva” though Coventry. Every year for nearly three centuries, a sky-clad village maiden (elected Queen of the May) enacted this Pagan rite, until the Puritans put an end to the custom.

May Day is also an important day for the labor movement.

At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike “at the root of the evil.” A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that “whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave.”

Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that “the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction.” With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8-hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond the more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic structure of capitalism.

Back here in the 21st Century, it’s been quite a week for news.

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